Creativity is at the heart of Coco & Wolf, both in the creativity behind our products and also in encouraging our customers to be creative with their print and product pairings. We take huge inspiration from other creatives we discover and that was no different when we discovered Henrietta Martindale’s London based calligraphy studio, The Styled Writing Company. Following a life long love affair with handwriting and a background in event design, Henrietta founded the studio in 2015 which keeps the customer at it’s heart. Warmth, approachability and joy are all key, attention to detail is meticulous and creativity is unparalleled. Today she talks us through her creativity outside of the calligraphy studio, where she finds her inspiration and how The Styled Writing Company was born.
We believe creativity truly is a way of life, rather than an activity or a collection of traits. Have you always been a creative?
I would say I’ve always had a creative mind and loved art at school, especially sculpture and ceramics. I love to be connected to natural textures and materials. One of my deepest desires is to rekindle my love of pottery and relearn that skill - it would save me a fortune in buying pots for my garden! I also think in colour, which I always thought was totally normal until my A-Level art teacher told me otherwise. Every letter and name has a colour attached to it in my mind which helps steer me towards certain aesthetics and away from others. Since I was at primary school I have always been obsessed by handwriting, and, as the years rolled by, I would spend hours doodling, seeing how letters dance around together to form shapes. I see them as little personalities, each different from the next - some quiet and steady giving foundations to the more flamboyant letters who steal the limelight with their drama; each of course being just as important as the last in the overall composition of a word.
Is all of your creativity assigned to your job or do you enjoy being creative outside of this?
I love to cook! I used to be a terrible cook but I lived with my restaurateur brother in my late twenties and learnt heaps from him and the rest of my food obsessed family too, and in the last few years it has become something that brings me huge amounts of pleasure. I’m a nut for a dinner party so the two things work quite well together and I can’t wait to host again in our kitchen. I also love to run, I like the complete mundanity of it. I rarely listen to music whilst I run, preferring the hypnotic thud of my feet on the pavement which calms my busy mind. Music, is another huge passion, I love to dance (very badly) in fields, my kitchen, wherever. More recently I have discovered the joys of hiking and wild swimming.
Our customers love hearing more about how creatives turned their hobbies and passions into businesses. Tell us the story of The Styled Writing Company.
After leaving behind a much loved, exhilarating yet exhausting existence designing fashion parties and co-running a private members’ club in Mayfair to have my first daughter, I soon yearned again for creative pleasures. I thought about all the things I loved; people, parties, design & calligraphy, along with a deep desire to create a harmonious work life balance with my new life as a mother, and the idea for the studio was born. I was incredibly lucky to have an opportunity early on to pitch to Fortnum & Mason and soon after I found myself with my first client, creating stationery elements for their private events. It was a dream come true and from that point I began to build my customer base, making connections with event planners, fashion houses & restaurants; drawing on my previous event experience to position myself as someone who fully understood the pressures of executing something beautiful and who could feed into that in a supportive and creative way. When I was at the sharp end of events, I always admired the calligraphers that we brought on for special projects and I couldn’t believe I’d finally begun my new journey on this path. The amazing thing about making the leap into a new venture is how quickly you feel the love; how intrinsic it is for people to want to support and nurture, to offer introductions, to connect and collaborate. It’s like a chain reaction - passion is infectious. I am so very grateful to everyone who has ever wanted to work with me, recommended me and supported my business.
The old adage of 'do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life’ is problematic. Running a business that began as a hobby is really hard work, perfection becomes an obsession, and it’s incredibly hard to separate yourself from it - but would I change anything? Absolutely no way. I love what I do and feel so grateful every day to be able to pick up my pen, it makes me very happy indeed.
How do you nurture your creativity?
Surrounding myself with lots of mood boards, getting under the skin of my client and understanding what their dream looks like, feels like, smells like. And how lucky are we now with Instagram and Pinterest, both are just a bottomless pit of inspiration. I have a certain ritual once I’m in my studio - a scented candle, a good playlist and a giant cup of tea. Usually a quick run first thing in the morning helps me set my mind up for the day and yoga is brilliant for calming the nervous system and helping me focus on my craft. I now also know the importance of stepping away, taking a walk and letting the ideas come naturally. I have suffered with blocks before, where I cant quite get it right, and it’s fine to walk away (deadline depending of course) but often space can be the biggest nurturer of all.
As you mentioned, there does seem to be a never-ending source of inspiration online. Where do you get your inspiration from in the real world?
I grew up on the Suffolk coast so I am constantly drawn back there for inspiration, the sea, the forests, the enormous skies - I love space and you can see this in my calligraphy, I like lots of empty space around my lettering. I love natural textures and a laid back aesthetic. In complete contrast to this, I take huge inspiration from where we live in North West London; the vibrancy, the warmth, the melting pot of characters, creativity, community. London is like nowhere else on earth in its spirit. I like to embody this in the way I approach projects with clients, like anything is possible and we can have a lot of fun along the way.
We love being surrounded by our favourite things when exercising our creativity. What is your favourite piece in your calligraphy and design studio?
Hands down, my beautiful Japanese calligraphy box. Back when my calligraphy business idea was still a pipe dream somewhere in the depths of my mind, I received a package all the way from Australia. Inside was a beautiful box, and inside the box a note from my sister, who was living in Melbourne at the time. She explained that she’d unearthed it in a reclamation yard she was working in and decided to restore it for me as a present. And once she’d researched its provenance she’d discovered that it was in fact a 19th Century Japanese calligraphy box. I couldn't believe it. The stars had aligned. It was my impetus to take the idea from out of my head and pursue my dream. The box sits on my desk as a reminder of how sometimes inspiration can come when you least expect it. It’s so beautiful and has lots of old ink stains inside the drawers, which I feel connect me to this ancient art form.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’m quite laid back so mostly it’s causal dresses and trainers, or t shirts tucked into high waisted jeans and a slouchy jacket. When i get the chance though I do love to stick on a heeled boot and a bit of leopard print, and my new love - orange/red lipstick (its taken me till 39 years old to wear a red lip). Our house is similar, quite informal with lots of textures and warm colours; our kitchen is pink and at its heart sits a large, chunky concrete island, covered in characterful imperfections (just how I like it), the kitchen floor is herringbone wood and elegant black steel doors pull it all together. If you know my calligraphy, you’ll know I love to use black as the final touch especially on a more delicate palette. My doors do just this. They toughen up the pink walls. Oh, and I’m surrounded by dozens of plants - I like to bring the outside in.
Calligraphy by The Styled Writing Company.
Creative people are often imaginative and curious. Where does your mind most often wander?
Back to the sea. I long to one day live by the sea - on that horizon sits all my childhood memories, I lost my mum when I was a teenager and I feel deeply connected to her there. It is also a place where I can be utterly present and also dream about the future. For me it is everything. I love to imagine us all living a wild life one day, the children running free, me in my calligraphy studio surrounded by trees and a limitless sky. I would also love to travel with our children, build curiosity in them. We are planning a possible road trip around Southern Italy next year, a place we have undeniably fallen for after a special holiday there last year. My mind often wanders to our imaginary traditional Puglian trullo with all our favourite people sitting around the pool sipping Negroamaro rosé. Heaven.
Trips to Puglia, documented by Henrietta.
What a truly fascinating read. We absolutely adored hearing how Henrietta nurtures her creativity and her approach to each and every calligraphy project. I think we can all be inspired by her appreciation for even the more everyday elements of life; cooking and running, not to mention how her words painted the most beautiful picture of her beloved Suffolk coast. We’re certain you’ll love Henrietta’s calligraphy as much as we do, her place names would look perfect against a backdrop of Liberty print table linen, so make sure you’re following her on Instagram for everyday inspiration and creativity.